Aussies may now have to queue to get groceries as major supermarkets ramp up social-distancing measures in stores ahead of the Easter holidays.
From today (April 6), Coles and Woolworths may limit the number of customers who can enter stores at peak times, with a ‘one in, one out’ policy applied where necessary. Customers could be counted at the doors and asked to queue outside stores for their turn to shop.
Coles CEO Steven Cains said the new social-distancing measures are necessary to protect the health of both customers and staff ahead of the forecasted busier period during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Over the coming week, we may be introducing new limits when the stores are busy on how many customers can be in a Coles store at any one time,” he said.
“Team members will be at store entrances to provide assistance and let you know when it is OK to come in. We ask that you follow their instructions and any signs in-store so we can safely serve as many customers in the community as possible.”
Woolworths Managing Director Claire Peters said how many customers are let inside to shop at any given time will be determined by the floor space of each individual store.
“Our store managers will use common sense discretion to manage this in the interest of community safety,” she said.
While many Aussies have welcomed the announcements, reactions have been mixed online, with some social media users questioning whether getting shoppers to line up outside stores for extended periods of time will create more chaos and a higher risk of the virus spreading among people queuing.
Is potentially waiting solo – can’t say ‘huddle’ due to #COVID19Aus #ChinaVirus 1.5m social distancing – outside in rain at @woolworths @Coles and crappy @ALDIAustralia due to limits on customers in store – a greater health risk to most? @healthgovau ought tell us. @GregHuntMP
— Edmund Carew (@EdmundCarew) April 4, 2020
The unprecedented demand for grocery items amid the coronavirus pandemic has forced supermarkets to adopt a series of drastic measures to shore up supply, including imposing buying limits on essential and in-demand items such as toilet paper and hand sanitiser, introducing dedicated shopping hours for seniors, halting online delivers services for all but disadvantaged groups and suspending change-of-mind refund policies to discourage panic buying.
Last week, Coles and Woolies extended their trading hours to stay open until 10pm every night, including weekends (where state laws allow).
Stores will display outdoor signage with coned-off areas instructing customers where to queue, while security guards and supermarket staff will police store access as needed.
Other supermarkets like ALDI and IGA may introduce similar measures.
Supermarket rules during the COVID-19 outbreak
Supermarkets are encouraging customers to shop alone when possible and to keep a safe distance in-stores of 1.5 metres from others at all times. The length of a trolley is a good measure of distance. For those who prefer a quieter shopping period, early mornings and late evenings are typically less busy, according to Coles.
Under new hygiene measures, shoppers are now provided with cleaning wipes for baskets and trolleys and will be asked to sanitise their hands before entering stores.
Supermarket stores may also now display floor stickers instructing customers on how to navigate aisles to keep a safe distance and where to stand at the checkout. To minimise close contact time, shoppers are asked to pack their own bags and to use cashless payments when possible. Checkouts and self-service areas are cleaned every hour.
Customers are also encouraged to plan before they shop by creating a shopping list. Coles and Woolies both have apps which show which aisles products can be found in and prices for faster shopping.
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